Date: 1/12/18 12:05 am
From: David Irons <LLSDIRONS...>
Subject: [obol] Re: ebird throws out the baby with the bath water...
Paul et al.,

I have long espoused the idea that being informed (or in the "loop") about rare birds is not an inalienable right bestowed on all who choose to become birders and those who decide to work hard at amassing the large lists. For all sorts of reasons that are entirely their own, birders make decisions each and every day about how much information they want to share. I operate on the basic assumption that NO ONE is obligated to tell me about the birds that they find, even the rare ones. I feel privileged when they do share and provide me with information about birds that I would never know about otherwise.

The existence of OBOL, eBird and various other forums where bird sightings are reported and subscribing to such forums does not obligate or require users to post all of our sightings to these forums. I don't take it personally when I am not in the loop and I have often been outside the loop. On the rare occasions when I have chosen not to share a particular sighting I wasn't making decisions based on who I felt was "worthy" of getting to see the bird.

We aren't a "community of equals"...never have been never will be and it is unrealistic to expect that to be the case. Hundreds of Oregon birders seem to have more free time and more discretionary income than I have to devote to birding. When a rare bird is discovered on a Tuesday, it is a virtually certainty that in most weeks the earliest point that I might be able to give chase will be the following Saturday. Meanwhile, I get to read the daily parade of "YESes" in OBOL subject lines. I look at daily OBOL and eBird postings and it sometimes feels like every birder in Oregon is out birding more than me. Of course that is not the case. Should the rest of you be required to only go birding and only find rare birds on days when I am available to chase them on equal terms? Of course not.

We are certainly not equals in terms of skill. On many occasions I have shown up at the site of a rare bird sighting only to find a gaggle of chasers who have up to that point have not relocated the bird. Often, some of them don't really know what they are looking for, having not even cracked a field guide to get a visual search image. They also haven't taken the time to research and learn the likely vocalizations that the bird might give. Perhaps they expect or know that someone with more skill and experience will eventually show up and refind the bird for them. A few years ago about 15 people got to see the Yellow-throated Warbler in Sherwood because I was one of two people in the group (the other being Shawneen) who knew the bird's chip note and recognized it immediately when it called. Some of the others had been there over an hour, mostly lingering around the yard and a suet feeder where the bird had been seen a day earlier. The Yellow-throated Warbler never did go to the suet that day. I often wonder if that bird would have been refound that morning had I not been there to recognize the call note as it flew overhead. I don't feel obligated to talk to other birders or help them when I am out birding, but I do so without expecting or getting anything in return. Over the years I have helped birders of all skill levels find and see birds that they are looking for. I do it because I enjoy it. Worthiness has nothing to do with it.

As for "the rest of us cannot be trusted to behave properly." Sad to say it, but this is a truism Paul. It shouldn't be a revelation for someone who has been birding for decades. The rest of us is a huge group these days. Many newer birders and some of the veterans don't know, or choose not to adhere to the basics of birding ethics, especially when there is a checkmark or great photo to be had. Beyond actions that result in birds being harassed, I've seen many birders behave badly. We trespass, we block roads with cars and large groups of us milling about in the path of traffic. We are not always conscientious about others who might be trying to walk or bike along paths that we are blocking. Several years ago in Texas Shawneen and I watched a woman get out of her car and run towards a fence to get closer to two Whooping Cranes that she was trying to photograph. The two cranes were feeding and walking with their heads down and they were already gradually moving towards the road that we and she were parked along. Had she patiently stayed in her vehicle all of us would have gotten excellent photos of the birds from fairly close range. Instead her actions flushed the cranes, which circled the pasture a couple times and then flew off out of sight. Some in this forum will remember the Great Gray Owl found near Mulino in Clackamas County several years ago. That bird got pushed all over the place by overzealous birders and photographers. The locals were not left with very good impression of the birders and gawkers who came to see the owl after its presence was made widely known by an article in the Oregonian. The obstacle course of vehicles and people over the many days the bird was present became a real nuisance. By all accounts it was a fiasco. A couple years ago a migrant Flammulated Owl appeared in a small wooded area at the South Padre Island Convention Center. The bird was roosting in some trees just above a fenced water feature that is surrounded by carefully tended native plants. Birders and photographers were not content to stay behind the fence. Many got inside the fence, with some even setting up chairs and stools as they photographed the owl. They were not only rude, but obnoxiously refused to move back outside the enclosure despite the repeated pleas of the woman (a dear friend) who designed and maintains the water feature and the plantings. The area and the plants were completely trampled. Similarly and closer to home, there was a Burrowing Owl roosting just over the fence at Boiler Bay State Wayside last year. The bird was found by a group of birders in the morning about 15 feet beyond the fence, where it stayed for many hours. It had clearly been grounded by a strong storm overnight and it was quite wet and stressed looking already. Perhaps hundreds of people (including many non-birders) got to see and photograph the bird at extremely close range from just behind the fence. The owl seemed fairly content with this arrangement and basically didn't move for several hours. About midday one guy decided that he needed to jump the fence and get closer to the bird for better photos. Others present had told him not to go over the fence because he would disturb the bird, but he did so anyway. He flushed the owl, which flew off and disappeared. That he wasn't beaten senseless is remarkable.

The bottom line is that none of us gets to judge how others in this broad and diverse community chose to use or not use various bird reporting avenues. If others do share we should say thank you and be truly appreciative. If they choose not to share, perhaps we might just acknowledge that it is their choice and say nothing rather than taking it personally.

Each of us will eventually die, at which point our life list will be utterly meaningless..which is only slightly less important than it is today. No one other than you will care that you didn't tick Great Gray Owl for your Benton County list and once gone from this world you'll be in no position to worry about it yourself, so why worry about it today?

Dave Irons

From: <obol-bounce...> <obol-bounce...> on behalf of Paul Sullivan <paultsullivan...>
Sent: Friday, January 12, 2018 5:39 AM
To: <obol...>
Subject: [obol] Re: ebird throws out the baby with the bath water...

I say this without rancor. The situation just is.

The situation posted by Joel tells me that the ďOregon birding communityĒ and Oregon Birders on Line is not a community of equals. It says that some birders are more worthy than others. It says the rest of us cannot be trusted to behave properly.

That is a sorry statement.

I donít even know what birds Iím being denied by those who judge me unworthy. I canít say that I am aggrieved.

Paul Sullivan


Subject: Re: ebird throws out the baby with the bath water...
Date: Thu Jan 11 2018 21:57 pm
From: joel.geier AT

As luck might have it, another species that comes under this recent

"protection" for sensitive species by eBird was found in Corvallis a few

days ago, after a local resident tipped off a local birder who shared it

with their own personal network of friends.

Sightings of the bird were masked but if you looked at the list of

"recent visits" in Benton County, you'd see that there was suddenly an

awful lot of activity in a neighborhood that seldom gets much attention.

The bird was excluded from all of those ebird lists but still, by my

count, at least 14 birders who were in the loop thanks to personal

connections went to that location to twitch the bird, within the space

of 3 or 4 hours.

A long-time local birder who lives on the same street as where this bird

was seen saw another birder walking by, who didn't stop to share this

information, but later posted a photo of the bird on the Macaulay

library (which turns out to be a bit of a loophole in the system).

The bird apparently has not been seen since around 4 pm that afternoon.

Hard to say if the sudden attention by 14+ birders with binoculars and

cameras was the cause, or if it was something else. But if the purpose

of the new ebird "protections" for sensitive species is to protect these

species from excessive attention, apparently that purpose was defeated

by word-of-mouth in this case.

The system might need some work.


Joel Geier

Camp Adair area north of Corvallis

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